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Snow experts are coming to the rescue of hydroelectric companies

As beautiful as it is, snow is notoriously difficult to model. It is a subtle and ever-changing mix of ice, air, and liquid water. It comes in various and unpredictable forms; it can be compact or fall in loose cover over uneven terrain. For hydropower operators who rely on meteorological data to predict the amount of water flowing into their reservoirs, snow presents real challenges. But Trento-based start-up MobyGIS believes it has solved the problem and has prestigious partnerships with Italian power companies to show for it.

The company's marquee product, WaterJade, brings together precipitation and snow data to build what amounts to a digital twin of the natural area surrounding hydropower reservoirs. MobyGIS’s expertise in snow cover is well established: their first product, an accurate, crowd-sourced snow map of the Dolomite Mountains won multiple awards.

With WaterJade, the company has put its knowledge of snow monitoring at the service of water authorities and energy companies for whom accurate forecasts are business critical. Companies such as A2A and Edison, one of Europe’s oldest energy utilities, have worked with MobyGIS to improve planning and operation.

Using precipitation and snow GIS-satellite data, WaterJade uses a proprietary algorithm to monitor the evolution of the snow cover in the mountain, the water discharge in the valley and the soil moisture in the plain. The tool uses machine learning to digitalise the physical processes responsible for the runoff and create a digital copy of the catchment area. This visual outcome is particularly useful for decision-makers. WaterJade also helps hydropower operators forecast the amount of water flowing into their reservoirs in the short-term and on a seasonal basis. Climate projections are an additional part of the programme.  

Climate change is at the centre of preoccupations for energy companies using water. Whether climate change translates into variations in the form, quantity or frequency of precipitations, one thing is clear: methodologies that rely on an analysis of historical data are grossly inadequate to guide planning and operations.

To solve the problem, MobyGIS has brought together passionate people who have turned their obsession for snow into expert knowledge of water in all its form. With WaterJade, they're putting forward new methodologies and practices to help navigate the challenges posed by climate change. This cross-sectoral collaboration illustrates that a potential reservoir of talent remains untapped, ready to help those who rely on water to do their job.

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